What is an inclusive school?

Inclusion should always be seen as a journey where no school arrives (Curriculum Group Dorchester, 2002). It involves the constant scrutiny and auditing of policies, procedures and practices, to ensure that no groups are underachieving, being marginalised or excluded. Inclusion is more about a state of mind than any specific educational arrangements. The process of learning is considered important as well as the content of what the student learns.
An inclusive special school should be concerned with excellence of educational opportunity in the true educational sense (Cole, 2000) and no longer focus primarily on their previous goals of functional competency and rehabilitation. Inclusive schools need subject expert teachers who know the diversity of learning difference of students.
"Effective schools are educationally inclusive schools. This shows, not only in their performance, but also in their ethos and their willingness to offer new opportunities to pupils who may have experienced previous difficulties. An educationally inclusive school is one in which the teaching and learning, achievements, attitudes and well-being of every young person matter.”
The teacher is the educational change agent (Hargreaves, 2003). At the heart of educational opportunity is the facilitating role of the teacher. Their beliefs and consequent practices are the crucial elements that foster student development. At a time of educational change and when such major paradigm shifts in the nature of education are being promoted what matters most are the teacher’s beliefs in what should be taught and then how they should practice their art of teaching (Daniels, 2000). If they are to practice inclusion principles and deliver an inclusive curriculum then every teacher must play their part, every teacher matters.
The drive for inclusion has been with us for over twenty years yet there is evidence that the support for the belief in the principles remains as rhetoric when it comes to practice. Where there are teachers in special schools that are not aware of the central curriculum and the relevance of the key learning areas then there is a lack of inclusion. Where there are teachers in all schools who keep a direct control of their classroom without encouraging student centred learning, then there are students who are not included in their learning. If the paradigms of teaching are to change, then the teachers need to be informed of how to change their practices. If this is not done then the excellent principles become empty rhetoric. Without the teacher’s clarity of values there can be no clear paradigms of curriculum delivery. Without the informed teacher there can be no inclusive education. The teacher really does matter.
The teacher in the classroom is like an actor on a stage who must have the will to inspire excitement about learning and the ability to encourage student curiosity and challenge the student’s ability to explore and make sense of the world about them. The greater the disability of the student the greater the challenge for the teacher, the more barriers to learning the student presents the more flexible a facilitator the teacher has to be. At this point it is the personality of the teacher which creates the sense of fun and laughter that is germane to educational motivation. Without the teacher’s sense of fun there can be no excitement or student curiosity. The teacher matters not only as a professional but also as a person.
A good teacher not only has strong beliefs but is also well disciplined in their art of professional practice. A good teacher has to have a holistic grasp of their responsibilities.  The teacher of the twenty first century is not just a person who teaches students in the classroom. A twenty first century teacher is an educator, a person who is an expert in curriculum management, a master of classroom management, a skilled practitioner in assessment and evaluation (Browder, 2001) and above all someone who understands the educational implications  of the abilities and disabilities of their students (Lewis, 2003) and encourages student centred learning, . The teacher matters because their ability to operate within this complex educational context requires the highest level of professionalism. Without the teacher’s highest standard of professionalism there can be no quality of education development.